What Paint to Use for Tile Backsplash: The Complete Guide

Choosing the right paint for your tile backsplash is an important decision that can dramatically impact the look and feel of your kitchen or bathroom. With so many paint options on the market, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. This complete guide will walk you through everything you need to know about picking the perfect paint for your backsplash tiles.

Introduction to Painting Tile Backsplashes

Painting over existing tile backsplashes provides an easy and affordable way to update the look of your kitchen or bath without undergoing a full tile replacement. With a simple coat or two of paint, you can transform dingy, dated tile into a fresh, modern backsplash that matches your home’s decor.

Paint adheres well to most tile materials, including ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone. It creates a smooth, seamless finish that unifies disparate tiles into one cohesive backsplash. Paint also allows you to get creative with color and finish in ways not possible with traditional tile. Satin, matte, or high-gloss sheens pair beautifully with bold hues to create any style from farmhouse to contemporary.

However, not all paints adhere and perform the same on tile substrates. Choosing the right formulation is critical for getting long-lasting results. The rest of this guide digs into the key considerations for selecting an paint that will adhere to and endure on your backsplash tiles.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Tile Backsplash Paint

Many factors come into play when determining the best paint for your tile backsplash. Consider the following criteria before making a purchase:

Tile Material

  • Ceramic and porcelain tile – Offer excellent paint adhesion as long as the tile is properly prepared. Most paints work well.
  • Natural stone tile – Requires specialty paints designed for adhesion to stone.
  • Glass tile – Also requires paints formulated for slick, non-porous materials.
  • Metal tile – May need a bonding primer for best results.

Always check the paint specifications to ensure compatibility with your specific tile material.

Paint Finish

  • Matte – Provides an understated, elegant finish. Hides imperfections well.
  • Satin – Delivers a smooth, subtle sheen. Resists stains better than flat finishes.
  • Semi-gloss – Imparts a gently reflective surface. Enhances color brightness.
  • High-gloss – Offers a bold, lustrous finish. Shows more surface defects.

Consider the level of shine you want and how it fits with your overall kitchen or bath decor.

Paint Formula Type

  • Latex acrylic paint – General all-purpose option suitable for most tile types; water-cleanup.
  • Epoxy paint – Extremely durable two-part paint used for heavy traffic areas.
  • Enamel paint – Provides a porcelain-smooth finish that’s easy to clean.
  • Urethane alkyd paint – Delivers a hard, protective finish with superior adhesion.
  • Silicone-modified paint – Adds flexibility to resist cracking on tiles.

Match the paint’s formula to your tile material and performance needs.

Paint Sheen

  • Flat – Hides imperfections; prone to stains and scuffs.
  • Eggshell – Classic look; scrubbable and stain-resistant.
  • Semi-gloss – Enhances color; durable and easy to clean.
  • High-gloss – Bold shine; shows more defects.

Sheen impacts aesthetics and durability. Generally, higher gloss paints are more stain-resistant.

Paint Color

Consider colors that complement your cabinets, countertops, flooring, and other kitchen or bath decor. Neutral colors offer versatility, while bold hues make a statement. Be sure to buy ample paint for adequate coverage over dark tiles.

Mildew Resistance

Backsplashes see a lot of moisture. Seek paints with EPA registered mildewcide to inhibit mold and mildew growth. This is especially important in bathrooms and outdoor kitchens.

Application Concerns

  • Ease of application – Consider opting for paint with primers included or paint and primer in one. This streamlines the process.
  • Dry time – Faster drying paint lets you apply multiple coats quicker.
  • Cleanup – Water-based latex paints rinse easily with soap and water.

Factor in how much effort you want to expend on the painting process.

Prep Work for Painting Tile Backsplashes

Proper prep work before painting is vital for good paint adhesion and performance. Follow these key steps:

Clean the Tile

Use a degreasing cleaner or ammonia-based soap to remove all residues from tiles. Rinse thoroughly and let dry.

Sand Smooth Finishes

For shiny tile, scuff sand with 120-150 grit sandpaper to help the paint bind. Avoid sanding natural stone.

Repair Grout

Re-grout any missing or cracked grout lines. Let new grout cure per manufacturer instructions before painting.

Use Adhesion Promoter

Apply an etching solution or bonding primer to increase paint grip, especially on slick surfaces like ceramic and porcelain.

Apply Base Coats

Use a latex-based primer or specific tile primer before applying paint. This improves adhesion and evens out tile porosity.

Caulk Joints

Caulk where backsplashes meet countertops or walls. This keeps these joints clean when painting. Remove caulk after painting.

Follow all preparation package directions. Proper prep leads to better looking, longer-lasting painted tile backsplashes.

Best Paints for Ceramic Tile Backsplashes

Ceramic tile offers a versatile and affordable backsplash option, though its porous surface requires the right paint for success. Here are top paint picks for ceramic:

Rust-Oleum Tile Transformations Kit

This 2-part epoxy coating kit was designed specifically for ceramic and porcelain tile. It includes primer, paint, and sealer for a complete system. The high-gloss finish is sleek and durable. Available in multiple colors.

Behr Premium Cabinet & Trim Interior Enamel

This interior enamel paint provides a smooth, glass-like finish that’s extremely scrubbable. The urethane-fortified formula adheres tightly and is moisture, chip, and peel resistant.

INSL-X Tile & Tub Refinishing Paint

Formulated for bath surfaces, this one-part epoxy acrylic paint has excellent adhesion and stain resistance. Its harder finish better withstands humidity and frequent cleaning.

Benjamin Moore Corotech Pre-Catalyzed Waterborne Epoxy

This commercial-grade option bonds tenaciously to tile with a high-gloss sheen. Two-part epoxy cures to an exceptionally hard, protective finish. Fantastic durability.

KILZ Adhesion Interior Latex Primer

Before painting, use this primer formulated to stick tight to slick surfaces including tile, glass, and metal. Helps topcoats adhere for uniform appearance.

Ceramic tile offers versatility for kitchen or bath backsplash designs. With the right prep and paint, you can easily transform or update the look of your existing ceramic tile backsplash.

Best Paint for Porcelain Tile Backsplashes

Porcelain tile makes a sleek, modern backsplash, though the ultra-smooth finish presents paint adhesion challenges. Use these top coating options on porcelain:

Benjamin Moore Corotech Pre-Catalyzed Waterborne Epoxy

The industrial-grade adhesion and strength of this two-part epoxy make it ideal for the non-porous surface of porcelain. Cures to an impermeable, chemical-resistant finish.

Sherwin-Williams Pro Industrial Pro-Cryl Universal Primer

This multi-purpose bonding primer sticks to porcelain and other slippery surfaces to improve topcoat adhesion. Also resists moisture and enhances corrosion resistance.

Rust-Oleum Specialty Tub & Tile Refinishing Paint

An epoxy-acrylic formula provides durability on porcelain tile backsplashes. Forms a protective, glossy finish that withstands moisture, scrubbing, and stains.

INSL-X Bathtub and Tile Refinish Paint

Specifically designed for remodeling bathroom porcelain surfaces without full replacement. The acrylic urethane resists moisture damage, abrasion, and household cleaners.

Zinsser Bulls Eye 1-2-3 Water-Based Primer

This versatile synthetic primer bonds tightly and obscures existing tile colors as a base for your topcoat. Water-based acrylic formula sands easily.

Porcelain backsplashes require an extra-strength bonding paint. With proper prep and the right product, you can paint porcelain tiles with excellent adhesion.

Best Paint Options for Stone Tile Backsplashes

Natural stone tile offers elegance but needs specialty paints to avoid adhesion issues. Consider these options for stone:

INSL-X Sure Step Anti-Slip Coating

Formulated for stone and concrete, this polyurethane acrylic paint has etching primers built in for outstanding adhesion. Its textured finish improves traction.

Rust-Oleum EpoxyShield Garage Floor Coating

This two-part epoxy paint is designed to adhere to concrete and masonry surfaces like natural stone tile. Offers great durability and abrasion resistance.

KILZ Adhesion High-Bonding Interior Latex Primer

A maximum-strength, low-odor primer ideal for preparing slick natural stone tile for painting. Bonds tightly to improve topcoat adhesion.

Benjamin Moore Corotech Pre-Catalyzed Waterborne Epoxy

The strongest option, this industrial-grade epoxy has extremely tenacious adhesion to non-porous stone. Highly chemical and moisture resistant.

Rust-Oleum Specialty Anti-Slip Paint

Contains gritty additives to create texture on stone tile to help prevent slips and falls in bathrooms. Water-based acrylic dries fast.

Stone backsplashes add beauty, but require etching or bonding primers before painting. Careful prep allows stunning painted stone tile results.

Best Paint for Glass Tile Backsplashes

Sleek glass tile needs specialty paints that can adhere to the non-porous, ultra-smooth surface. Use one of these products:

Benjamin Moore Corotech Pre-Catalyzed Waterborne Epoxy

This industrial-grade two-part epoxy bonds incredibly tight to glass and other slippery backsplash tiles with a durable, high-gloss finish.

INSL-X Cabinet Coat Epoxy

An acrylic urethane paint enriched with epoxy for superior adhesion to slick surfaces like glass. Forms a crystal-clear, protective finish.

Rust-Oleum Specialty Tile Transformations

This complete kit contains epoxy-based primer, paint, and sealer designed specifically for glass tiles. Available in multiple sheens and colors.

KILZ Adhesion Interior Latex Primer

Sticks to glass and other non-porous tiles to help topcoats adhere evenly. Great for prepping hard-to-paint surfaces.

Zinsser Bulls Eye 123 Water-Based Primer

Its water-based acrylic formula bonds tight and sands easily. Ideal for properly prepping glass backsplashes for painting.

Glass tile provides a surface that needs maximum adhesion paints. With diligent prep and these products, you can paint glass backsplashes with fantastic results.

Best Paint for Metal Tile Backsplashes

Metal backsplash tiles require paint that can flex with the material and resist corrosion. Use these top choices for metal:

Rust-Oleum Specialty Appliance Epoxy

This enamel paint is formulated to resist chipping, cracking, and peeling on metal surfaces like appliancs. Provides long-lasting protection and color.

KILZ Adhesion Interior Latex Primer

Sticks well to metal backsplashes, helping topcoats bond tightly. Its great surface penetration seals off surface rust on metal tiles.

Rust-Oleum High Heat Enamel Spray Paint

This industrial-grade enamel withstands temperatures up to 1,200° F. Ideal for protecting metal backsplash tiles behind stoves. Prevents rust and corrosion.

Rust-Oleum Specialty High Heat Bar-B-Q Black Spray Paint

Heat-resistant to 1,000° F for metal backsplash tiles around grills and ovens. Provides lasting protection from rust and fading.

Krylon Fusion All-In-One Spray Paint

Bonds to metal, ceramic, glass and more. No primer needed. Provides rust protection and long-lasting color in high heat areas.

Metal backsplashes need flexible, anti-corrosive paints that can withstand high temperatures. With the right paint, metal tile maintenance becomes simple.

How to Paint a Tile Backsplash

Once you select an appropriate paint for your tile material, follow these basic steps for a smooth application:

1. Clean and Prepare Tile Surface

Scrub away any dirt, oil or soap film from tiles with a degreasing cleaner. Sand or etch smooth glazed tiles. Repair any damaged grout and apply etching solutions or bonding primers as needed.

2. Mask Surrounding Areas

Use painter’s tape and plastic sheeting to mask off countertops, cabinets, and ceiling. This keeps them clean and contained.

3. Apply Base Coats of Paint

For best adhesion, start by applying a round of specialty primer or latex-based paint. Let dry fully.

4. Apply Paint in Thin, Even Coats

Use a brush, roller, or spray gun to apply two to three thin coats of paint, allowing proper drying time between coats. Water-down paints intended for brush application before rolling or spraying.

5. Remove Masking and Cleanup

Carefully remove all masking materials after paint dries. Clean brushes and other tools thoroughly in water or mineral spirits.

6. Seal and Protect Finish

Using a compatible tile sealer adds an extra moisture barrier and keeps painted backsplashes looking fresh longer.

With the right prep and paints, you can easily paint tile backsplashes and renew your kitchen or bath. Take your time and follow techniques for beautiful, long-lasting results.

Painted Tile Backsplash Maintenance Tips

To keep painted backsplashes looking like new:

  • Avoid abrasive scouring pads and cleaners which may mar the finish. Use soft cloths with mild soap and water for routine cleaning.
  • Re-apply fresh coats of compatible sealer every 1-2 years to protect the surface.
  • Immediately wipe up spills and splatters to prevent possible stains.
  • Consider re-applying higher gloss paints periodically to help maintain shine.
  • Be gentle around any painted areas. Harsh scrubs or blows can chip the paint.
  • Touch up any nicks or damage spots with original paint to prevent moisture intrusion.

With proper care, painted backsplashes can look amazing for many years before needing re-coating.

Painting FAQs

Still have questions? Here are answers to some common inquiries:

Should I use spray, brush, or roller to paint tile?

  • Spray painting achieves the smoothest, most seamless finish. However, brushing or rolling are nearly as effective when done properly and require less equipment.

How long does painted tile backsplash last?

  • Properly prepped and applied painted backsplashes can last 3-5 years or more before needing re-coating, especially if sealed and cared for properly.

What kind of paint adheres best to ceramic, porcelain, or glass tile?

  • Epoxy paints grip slick tile surfaces the strongest. Urethane alkyd and specialty acrylic paints also work very well.

Is painting over tile difficult for DIYers?

  • With proper prep and paint selection, tile painting is definitely doable for many DIYers. Patience and allowing adequate dry time between steps helps amateurs achieve pro-level results.

Can I paint natural stone backsplashes?

  • Yes, but natural stone requires etching or extra-strength bonding primers so paint will adhere correctly.

Professional Tile Painting Services

If your backsplash painting project feels too daunting, consider hiring professional tile painters. Reputable contractors have the right tools, skills, and experience to ensure a hassle-free paint job and lasting finish. They can also provide guidance on the best paint options for your specific tile material and project.

In summary, with careful planning and preparation, painting over backsplash tile provides a relatively simple, budget-friendly way to revitalize the look of your kitchen or bath. Following this guide will help you select the most compatible paint for your tile material to achieve long-lasting results. Give your dated backsplash a fresh new look with a simple coat of tile paint today!